Tool in Boston manhunt popular with NC law enforcement
Posted April 22, 2013
Sanford, N.C. — Law enforcement agencies nationwide, including a number in North Carolina, use heat-seeking cameras like the one the FBI mounted to a helicopter to help locate Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev was hiding in a power boat, covered by a tarp, in the backyard of a Watertown, Mass., home late Friday when officers, who could see his movements under the tarp because of the camera, moved in to capture him.
John Sutton, vice president of Aero Services, a Sanford company that installs such cameras on helicopters and other aircraft, smiled as he watched the nationally televised demonstration of the cameras' effectiveness.
"That individual was lying in a cool environment – the boat was a lot cooler than he was – so his body was hot, and it would show that heat even through the tarp," Sutton said Monday.
Law enforcement is the prime customer for Aero Services. The company was working on a thermal-imaging camera for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office on Monday.
"They love it. It helps a lot, and it saves a lot of lives on the ground," he said. "A lot of agencies wish they had it."
The cameras cost from $200,000 to $800,000 each, but the system is powerful enough to pick up heat from recent footprints or handprints.
Aero Services often works on as many as five orders from across the country at any given time.
"It's truly a helpful tool for us, especially for nighttime operations," said Lt. Todd Woodard of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Woodard said the cameras have been used to search for missing persons or to conduct drug busts, and troopers used them to help capture suspects in a Moore County homicide in 2010 and to search for a robbery and hit-and-run suspect in Clayton in January.